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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 15, 2006

Triathletes take plunge in Magic Island waters

 •  New course for Honolulu Triathlon brings fast times

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

The first leg of the Honolulu Triathlon begins with a swim off Ala Moana Beach Park's Magic Island. More than 780 athletes competed in yesterday's event.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Honolulu Triathlon competitors yesterday shrugged off fears of sewage-tainted water at Ala Moana Beach, and ironically, some athletes came out smelling like roses in a Mother's Day flower giveaway.

Yesterday's event was the first major swimming sporting event in the area since the March 24 rupture of a city sewer main in Waikiki that resulted in more than 48 million gallons of raw sewage going into the Ala Wai Canal.

"I was concerned earlier in the month, but as we got closer to the race, I was listening to the news and what they said about water quality, and it sounded like it was all right," said Ellie McManuels, 32, of Mililani, who went months without swimming at Ala Moana Beach. "I wasn't worried once the race started. I trust the organizers. I knew they wouldn't put us in danger.

"If we get sick, we get sick together," McManuels said. "I'm in good company."

About 250 fewer athletes entered yesterday's race, a decline organizers attributed to concern about the water. A total of 784 athletes started yesterday's race that began with a one-mile swim at Ala Moana Beach.

After the race, many athletes did not immediately wash off, and instead began to eat and drink at Magic Island.

Honolulu Triathlon winner Mitchell Dean said he was not concerned about the sewage spill two months ago that affected offshore Waikiki and Ala Moana.

"I've swam in places like London, and horrible little dams in the middle of France and Paris," Dean said. "This is beautiful compared to that."

Hawai'i's Matthew Seymour said the swimming water was "perfectly fine."

"I swallowed some water, and right now I feel fine," said Seymour, who finished fourth overall. "Let's hope it doesn't affect me later.

"I'd say this is one of the cleanest bodies of water even with the sewage spill," he said. "I swam in the Hudson River last year, and I was throwing up throughout the race."

Mark Speck, 36, of Makiki, said he was a little concerned about fallout from the sewage spill, but not enough to withdraw from the race.

"You knew how bad it was," Speck said. "In the back of your mind, you think about it a little bit. But at some point, you're going to have to get over it, and get back in the water."

Yesterday's Honolulu Triathlon also featured a new course to alleviate traffic concerns in East Honolulu. The previous course went from Kapi'olani Park to Hawai'i Kai and back.

This year's course had the swim at Ala Moana, a 25-mile bicycle race down Nimitz Highway near Aloha Stadium and back, and a six-mile run around Ala Moana Beach Park. The race finished at Magic Island.

Honolulu Police Maj. Randy Macadangdang said police received about 20 traffic calls related to the event.

"That's very good, from what I understand," said Macadangdang, who added a couple of calls came from drivers trying to navigate road closures to go to John Dominis restaurant in Kaka'ako for Mother's Day. Other calls came from drivers near Honolulu International Airport and the Sand Island area.

"I guess a couple of the workers didn't know of the closures," Macadangdang said. "Other than that, it was pretty good."

Macadangdang said police started progressively opening roadways starting from about 9:30 a.m. By noon, the roadways were open, he said. Last year, the event finished around 3 p.m., he said.

"It's much better than last year," race director Bill Burke said. "We don't have residents affected tremendously by this."

City Council member Todd Apo who competed in the race with City Council member Charles Djou said he preferred to have the race on another day besides Mother's Day to lessen the effect on the public.

Burke said he's working on the schedule change for next year. The tentative date is May 20, a week after Mother's Day, he said.

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com.